Blooming Deposits

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Evaporate a droplet full of silica nanoparticles, and you’ll get beautiful, flower-like films. As the water evaporates, dry nanoparticles build up in a solid deposit. The evaporation creates a pressure gradient that pulls toward the center of the drop, forcing the deposit to bend. As stress builds in the deposit, cracks form petal-like segments. The number of cracks is indicative of how much of the drop was solid material; the higher the volume fraction of particles is, the fewer cracks form and the less the deposit bends. (Image, video, and research credit: P. Lilin et al.)

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